Stories about Jesus Christ have been shared for centuries. But Joseph Josselyn, a deaf Christian and film director, is telling a story about Christ in American Sign Language — for the first time ever.

The idea for a film about Christ made by the deaf, for the deaf, came to Josselyn nearly two decades ago. Through years of struggle that comes with putting out an independent film, Josselyn remained faithful. He knew what such a project would mean to the deaf community.

And he made it happen. “Jesus: A Deaf Missions Film” is now in theaters.

“The reason we were so passionate about (this film) is because deaf people process in sign language. Deaf people for so long have been watching movies in our second language — we watch it on TV but have to depend on the subtitles or the captions, and we can’t fully experience it,” Josselyn told the Deseret News, with the assistance of an ASL interpreter.

“We started thinking about — what if there was a movie where Jesus himself was signing, was acting with facial expressions and sign language? And we knew then that deaf people would be able to connect to that story like never before.”

“Jesus: A Deaf Missions Film” is a summary of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), focused on who Jesus Christ is — “through the deaf eye,” explains Josselyn. “This is not a word-for-word project.”

But the film’s lack of spoken language shouldn’t scare off audiences who don’t understand ASL. It has English subtitles and a musical underscore to aid hearing audiences.

The film also presents the hearing community with an introduction to deaf culture.

“We as a deaf community have our own culture, we have an identity, a language and we have that sense of belonging,” said Josselyn.

“I think it will be helpful for hearing people to see this movie from a deaf perspective, there’s not voices, it’s all in sign language. They’ll see a bit of our culture. The music will help them through it and hopefully they will walk away speechless from the movie.”

‘God always came through’

Putting stories about Christ on screen in American Sign Language was not a task for the faint of heart.

It was 2006 when Josselyn started having conversations about making a film about Christ in ASL, and he “saw it as an incredible challenge with an astronomical budget.” He lacked the resources needed to turn his idea into a reality.

But for the span of nearly two decades, Josselyn didn’t lose hope.

When the time felt right, Josselyn and producer Michael Davis pitched the idea to his boss at Deaf Missions — a ministry dedicated to teaching deaf people about Jesus Christ.

The predicted budget for the film was daunting. But Josselyn reassured his team: “If God wants this to happen, he’s going to provide.”

In 2020, Josselyn and his team started the film before they reached the budget needed to execute it.

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“We decided to go ahead and start the process and it’s been incredible. It’s been an amazing experience and God provided full funding by the time that we completed filming,” Josselyn said.

Through every challenge, Josselyn said, “God always came through and worked out all the details.”

Watch: Trailer for ‘Jesus: A Deaf Missions Film’

“Jesus: A Deaf Missions Film” is now in theaters. This is not just a movie for deaf audiences, Josselyn says; he encourages everyone to go with “an open mind.”

“I just want to encourage everybody to go see the movie. This is something that is gonna be a different experience for everyone, deaf people included as well, people have not experienced something like this,” Josselyn said. “We want to ask our hearing friends to have an open mind and to go and see it and experience this different culture.”

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